Early this week, a handful of students were up on ladders with power tools finishing construction for a monumental bridge arching across the courtyard of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s East Campus residence hall at 3 Ames St. in Cambridge.
The wooden span was joined by a two-level “fort” (basically a deck for hanging out), a wagon (for the nominal “wild West” theme), “YOLO swings” (imagine a carnival ride, but all wood), “space trainer” and a trebuchet (to threaten the fort, I’m told).
The temporary project, which is due to come down by Tuesday, is part of how the residence hall welcomes/attracts first-year students to Residential Exploration (REX) week, the time when students are invited to visit various dorms on the way to choosing where they want to live on campus.
For many years, East Campus residence hall has stood out by constructing a temporary wooden roller coaster (that students ride) or fortress.
“The entirely student-run tradition dates back to 2004, when residents spontaneously decided to build a fully functioning roller coaster in the courtyard; after a few years of drawing increasing crowds (and official scrutiny), the coaster went on hiatus,” MIT’s Spectrum newsletter reported in 2017. “August 2014 marked its triumphant return, featuring a 130-foot-long wooden track complete with two hills. This time, the plans were created on a 3-D printer, reviewed by a professional architect, and awarded a building permit from the City of Cambridge—along with approvals from MIT’s Facilities Department and the Environment, Health & Safety Office.“
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